15 Under-the-Radar Cruise Ports to Visit Before Anyone Else
Not all ships dock in major cities or popular Caribbean islands; in fact, some of the most intriguing sights and destinations may be hidden behind an unfamiliar name. These 15 smaller ports lead to some major world sights that are off the beaten path.
Viking Ocean Cruises makes the signature Into the Midnight Sun cruise along the Norwegian coastline from Bergen in the south to the tip-top of the country in Honningsvåg. An excursion to Nordkapp (or North Cape), where visitors stand atop a plateau and stare down into the frigid Barents Sea below, will take your breath away. It's one of the northernmost points in continental Europe, earning it the nickname "the top of the world." Views on a clear day are spectacular, although the fog can often roll in quickly. Don't miss these 12 other bucket list cruises.
Pisco is the gateway town to Paracas National Reserve and a port of call on Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The mysterious Nazca Lines, one of the ancient mysteries around the globe that researchers still can't explain, make it worthy of a stop. While you're there, don't miss lunch at Hotel Paracas and its Chalana café, which serves up fresh catches of the day as ceviche, tacos, and sushi.
One of the many highlights on Tauck's Paris-to-Normandy sails is Vernon, about a 10-minute drive from Giverny, where Claude Monet's home and its famous garden are located. Cruisers can enjoy a private visit early in the day before the garden, with its iconic Japanese bridge and waterlily-filled ponds, open to the general public. Included in the tour is a visit to the Impressionist Museum in Giverny, where many works of art are immediately recognizable.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
This city's name may not roll off your tongue, but it is an important place because it is home to the famous Angkor Wat temples, which are exceptional displays of Khmer architecture and history. It is also a starting or ending point of most Mekong River cruises, including CroisiEurope's sailing between here and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam aboard the modern RV Indochine II. Find out more about our favorite affordable bucket list destinations that won't break the bank.
The city of Linz lies along the picturesque Danube River and has a charming old town district that's worthy of a visit itself. The town is also a great jumping-off point for Salzburg, known to many as the setting for the movie The Sound of Music. Visitors to Salzburg can explore many of the landmarks featured in the film, including the Basilica St. Michael and Mirabell Gardens. Salzburg is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart, and visitors can see many of the places that inspired him to write his music. Many of AmaWaterways' Danube River sailings make a stop in Linz, and the line offers complimentary loans of bicycles for tooling around the town. Don't miss these 11 other cruises with crazy-cool amenities.
The splendid the Cinque Terre region is known for its colorful rows of houses and hotels that hug the Mediterranean cliffs and shorelines. One of its most famous ports of call is Genoa, and not only because this is the home region of Christopher Columbus or the birthplace of the original pesto; it's also one of the easiest places for larger ships, like MSC's Meraviglia, to bring passengers who want to explore Portofino and the entire coastline.
Visitors to Croatia are most likely going to spend time in Dubrovnik or Split, both of which welcome cruise ships. But it's worth booking Crystal Yacht Expedition's Crystal Esprit to visit the jaw-dropping island of Hvar. The Mediterranean beaches here are unspoiled and less crowded than many others in the region—not to mention, the entire island offers a photo-worthy backdrop of rolling hills, lavender fields, and azure-blue sea. Find out the 14 other beautiful Mediterranean islands you need to visit once in your lifetime.
Norway is famous for its majestic fjords, especially in and around Geiranger. Viking's Into the Midnight Sun itinerary makes this a quintessential stop on its tour, and you can choose from one of many spectacular excursions, including kayaking through the fjords, viewing them from a helicopter, and hiking your way across. The Geirangerfjords are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Explore these 10 other impressive sites around the world.
Among Italy's largest cities, Naples may be a familiar name to foreigners. But it is what lies beyond Naples that makes this such a splendid addition to any itinerary. MSC Cruises makes regular stops here, giving travelers the chance to visit Pompeii or the island of Capri (limoncello, anyone?) as a convenient day trip. Another popular excursion is driving south along the coast toward the famous towns of Sorrento and Ravenna for a food and shopping extravaganza. Read about the world's 10 best cruise lines.
A must-see for many American's traveling to France is Normandy's D-Day beaches, which can be accessed from this port city. AmaWaterways operates numerous sailings along the Seine River to reach this important landmark, and its excursions include a visit to the beaches, the U.S. Cemetery at Omaha Beach, and the Ranger Monument. Another popular destination is Mont Saint Michel, the island commune that is surrounded by water when the tide rolls in. Its majestic perch offers beautiful scenery and quiet strolls through its cobblestone streets.